A Soldier’s Soul-check

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A solider is never alone in the fight.  When they enter into combat they trust their partner and team to cover their flank while pursuing the enemy.  If one soldier is wounded, others come to their aid and they are still never alone.  

In the Lord’s Army it should also be the same…yet sometimes it’s not.  

It could be because of pride and for the fear of looking weak.  Other times it could be because of trust issues or other kinds of troublesome elements in the relationship.  These excuses ought not prevent us from standing together on the fields of spiritual combat.  We wage a very real war with very serious eternal consequences, often times we may lose sight of how dire a toll this war can have on its fighting forces.  Yet while we continue to fight this spiritual war, with the Holy Spirit as our guide, we must also find those moments of soul-repair and spiritual check-up.  By this I mean we cannot fight forever, and we all need 3 crucial elements in order to continue on.  

3 Elements: Friends, Lends & Mends

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Friends: 

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart” 
― Eleanor Roosevelt

Perhaps what we need isn’t only surfaced friendship with a “how ya doin’?” but more of a deeper kind.  A kind that asks the hard questions of us.  The kind of friendship that demands more of our time and commands us to consider our points of view while realigning us with God himself.  Godly friendships are more than placating our conversations and our concerns, but should have a way of challenging our preconceptions and our value systems.  Sometimes these Godly friendships are also called Accountability partners, but in a long and winding road of life this long-term mentor/mentee relationship can lead to a deeper friendship.  We need Godly friends like these in our lives.  Some may come and go while others may walk with us for years to come, each will leave a mark on us if we are vulnerable enough to let them.  A good solider in God’s army needs other fighting friends within whom they can confide and find solace in.  Do you have friendships like this?   

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2) Lends

The second thing a good Soldier in God’s army needs to do is lend support to other fighters out there.  If you have made a commitment to Christ to proclaim His name to a lost world then you’ve made a long term commitment.  This isn’t some short term mission trip or a weekend warrior drill, this is for life.  Does that scare you?  Consider what Christ has done for us…and what does He ask of us in return?  He calls us to stand up, speak up and fight on.  So what about other fighters out there?  Don’t they require encouragement and accountability too?  YES!  A part of our calling as a Solider is to step up, step out and lend a hand to others.  These fellow soldiers may just require a listening ear, others might require some solace and rest on your behalf while others might benefit from your guiding hand as a more “seasoned” solider of the Cross.  You are also vital to their survival.  Make no mistake about it!  You a matter to their well-being and their success.  So step up and know that your contributions to others can make a drastic difference in their continuance in this fight!  

3) Mends

 

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This is a play on words of sorts, because this last point is two-fold: 

a) Make A-mends:

sometimes while in the fight we may inadvertently burn bridges that we need to re-cross.  In the heat of the battle we might face off against other well-meaning soldiers and have to separate ourselves from them.  Does that mean we should never speak again or never come face to face with that person again?  Absolutely not!  What it does mean is that we will find differences of opinions.  Sometimes we will be in the right while other times we will be in the wrong.  Yet we shouldn’t hold grudges against fellow children of God.  Sometimes we can find ways to make amends and re-pave that bridge.  Other times we might not necessarily ever see eye to eye with a fellow Christian, yet we can find our commonalities and get back out there into the thick of the fight!  There are bigger, more important battles to wage for the Kingdom than wasting time on the needless bickering and disharmony amongst fellow soldiers.  When we can make amends when then can face the second portion of this “Soldier’s Soul-check” – 

b) Mend.

Our hearts can become so compartmentalized when we face disharmony and issues with other believers.  When we seek peace within the body of Christ we also find a salve for our wounded souls as well.  Mending one mends the other and in so doing we become healthier and better equipped to face the real enemy of this world.  

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Getting to the point: 

Every soldier needs a break from the fight.  Every battle worn fighter needs a friend, a comrade a support system.  Every Christ-follower who wages war, through the power of the Holy Spirit, needs harmony within armor and body of Christ!  How’s your soul doing today?  Is it in need of a tune up?  Are you desperately in need of an accountability partner or friend to confide in?  Can you contribute and breath encouragement into other weary soldiers?  Are there charred remains of bridges that you need to repair before you can move on?  Don’t wait to make things better.  Don’t wait until you’re all alone in battle fit for an army.  God desires us to stand strong side by side, encouraging each other and healing the hearts of the wounded.

How’s your soul?

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True Heroes ARE Real!

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news story & interview

Yesterday I commented on the breaking story of the three women who had been kidnapped and held in a home for over tens years.  Again how sick is that?  Yet in the midst of this sickness and vile evil, a bright light of hope has arisen in this story.  A hero by the name of Charles Ramsey.  Yesterday he was interviewed by Anderson Cooper and the nation should be honored to have people like Mr. Ramsey in our midst.  At face value, he’s a humble guy who doesn’t want any recognition.  Upon further review he’s a solid Christian who just wants to do what is right!

Wow!  I couldn’t be more impressed with this man!  I’m not here to place anyone on a pedestal…and Mr. Ramsey clearly doesn’t want that either…but this is what I’ve been talking about for quite some time now.  Christians living the life and not just in word but also in deed.

In the interview yesterday Charles Ramsey lifted up his actual paycheck and told the nation that he didn’t want or deserve a reward and that any kind of reward should go to the women who were rescued.  Seriously I was floored and overjoyed to listen to this man speak.   Again I’m not trying to elevate him or sound boastful, but we need more Charles Ramseys in our world today!

It kind of provides for us the type of testimony each and every Christian ought to have as well.  We aren’t in it for the notoriety, or the money or to sell anything.  We are in it for life for Christ and the redemption of the world!  What He wants us to say we say, where He wants us to go we go.  We are His faithful disciples and ambassadors in a world who needs hope, who needs assurances that good and salvation yet remains.

Today, I applaud Mr. Ramsey for his integrity, his heroism and the fortitude he has displayed thus far.  May that be one of the shining examples of godly living to us as well as those around us.

True Heroes…they still exist…they ARE Real!

What do I stand for? (Day 1 of 5 Selfishness/Selflessness)

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What do I stand for?   The music video linked here by ‘Fun.’ asks a very good question, and within the context of living as Kingdom people, followers of Christ, this question begs an answer in all of us!  If we are truly honest with ourselves we have asked this question a time or two.  This question encompasses a whole spectrum of things from political beliefs and ideologies to intrinsic ethical and moral convictions of our personal worldviews.  This question can be a very existential pondering.  For when we ask this solitary question, other questions in the sequence of our lives beg to be asked as well.

Automatically, when thinking about what we stand for, we will recall the ‘golden rule’; “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”.  And certainly this is applicable, but what is it that we would like others to do unto us?  Love us?  Yes.  Treat us fairly? Check.  Be honest?  Certainly.  Be kind?  Absolutely.  All of these qualities and more is what we would have others do to us.

Enter Selfishness:

We hold to those truths listed above for others, but what about the way we treat other people?  Do we treat others the same way?  All too often we peer through rose colored glasses in how we treat others but if we were to look harder at our motives and intentions, we would quickly realize that many times we do things that will benefit us.  If there isn’t something in it for us, then we quickly lose interest and pursue things more self-involved and self-fulfilled.  Selfishness is our down fall most of the time.  If we aren’t fulfilled by the things we do, then no one will be fulfilled.  This is our old sinful self that is rearing its ugly head.  If there was a weakness in the Christian armor, the chinks in the armor would be selfishness and pride.   If we let our selfishness reign supreme in our decisions and in our lifestyles then we aren’t fulfilling our calling as Christ-followers.   Selflessness and Selfishness cannot take up the same space within our hearts; it’s either one or the other.   This is the crux of our world today, many of our sin issues that is crumbling any sense of morality comes from our pursuit of selfishness.

What Does Selflessness look like?

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Matthew 20:26-28 (NIV) 

If we stand for Christ and for what He seeks to do for the lost in our world then we must become servants and serve!  Becoming a servant of Christ isn’t easy, and it never will be if we still operate from our old selfishness.  Before we knew Christ we were consumed by this selfishness.  Now that we know Him and identify with His suffering we too must stand for more than just ourselves.  That old operating system of self cannot and will not lead others to God.  It will only perpetuate that sinful selfish cycle that this world is so used to.  What Christ did, was turn selfishness on its head.  What He asks of us as Sons and daughters of God is to follow in His footsteps as we fulfill that great commission:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)

When we ‘go’ we are called to leave our selfishness behind.  This, from the start is where we begin this journey of what we stand for!

TO BE CONTINUED….

Like a television series, imagine the old announcer say, “Tune in tomorrow, we’ll explore ‘Standing for God’s justice’.”

Live Responsibly!

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What does ‘Live Responsibly’ look like in this life?  

Driving, at times can be relaxing…when there aren’t other drivers on the road that is…which is obviously very rare.  Other times when we drive there are drivers which test our patience  am i right?  The driver behind is riding your bumper and thinks you’re driving too slow, speed up and you become just like the driver behind you and get annoyed with the slower driver in front of you.  It’s a never ending cycle of frustration.  Isn’t it interesting that colds and virus’ aren’t the only things that are contagious?  Don’t believe me?  Just hang out with a person who is always sour long enough and you too will become sour.  Spend time with one who is constantly angry and you too will find your temper (and blood pressure) becoming higher.  Emotions and attitudes are also contagious.  The opposite is also true.  Spend time with a loving and level headed person and soon you will long to act and behave in that same manner.  

I’m reminded of the beer commercials during sporting events that reminds us to ‘Drink Responsibly’…I’d like to adapt that concept, not for the consumption of alcohol, but rather for living our day to day lives…we ought to LIVE Responsibly!  After all, who is responsible for the choices we make? We Are!  You and I are responsible!  We can’t shy away from the fact that when we make choices, we have to live with the consequences.  We can’t blame others for the destinations of our choices.  We have to take responsibility for our lives…we have to live responsibly!  

It is true that we shouldn’t live by our emotions, but at the same time we ought to be wise in the company that we keep.  After all we are responsible for our actions not someone else.  When we live responsibly we start to recognize the triggers that can set us on a path that can and will lead to our destruction.  When we live responsibly we begin to grasp just a fragment of what’s at stake in this life.  

What living responsibly isn’t:  

1) Boring

Living responsibly doesn’t mean we can’t have fun or enjoy life, in fact the opposite is true.  When we live responsibly we will not only grasp the importance in life but also enjoy life a little more…maybe we laugh a little deeper, we relish the company of healthy influences and we invest in its enjoyment.  

2) We stop risking

Sorry, that’s not true either.  When we live responsibly we take calculated risks but in different ways.  No longer are we not thinking of the consequences but we are taking risks for others.  By that I mean we will extend ourselves to others who might need positive change in their lives but they don’t recognize it yet.  In our Christian worldview that means we are sharing the love of Christ with those who haven’t heard or experienced it yet.  We take risks for others instead of ourselves…these types of risks are far more rewarding and far reaching that the risks with selfish desires attached.  

3) We lose friends

Perhaps this is a half truth, because when we live responsibly we will find that some friends will simply walk away from us…but we will also gain friendships with deeper ties and firmer foundations.  Living responsibly (as a Christian) will force us to put on godly lenses in our living and lifestyles.  When we do, and we recognize the paths that God wishes us to travel on, we too will be joined by other sojourners on the journey.  This comradely will impact our lives like nothing before it.  The fellowship of believers is something everyone needs, and a sense of belonging will stem from these relationships.

 “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe”  (Philippians 2:12-15 NIV) 

Living Responsibly will impact not just our lives but the lives of those around us…so how about it?  Will you allow the infection and emotions of others to effect you, or will you take the initiative to impact your world for God?  The choice falls to us…no one can force us to take this bold step of faith.  Live it out loud and take this great leap of faith for yourself and for others!  

 Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

 

Trouble with the Follow-through

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You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. -1 John 4:4

 

I thought I was a good golfer…not great but good…okay, maybe average to moderately decent.

Perhaps my old roommate from college could attest to my outstanding golfing skills.  He has, after all, witnessed my spectacular athleticism by teeing off with what was to be a 300 yard tee shot only to hit a birch tree next to the tee off area and bounce back at us…yes did I say spectacular?  Maybe I meant spectacle.   Nonetheless, my perceptions of my golf skill level was and still is greatly exaggerated…Tiger Woods I am not.   Flash forward to a couple of years though, and I thought that I had this game figured out.   I could tee off fairly regularly, I would slice a lot but I was compensating for my learned form, my thrift store golf clubs had been replaced with a wonderful Christmas present golf set that was all mine.   I was entered into a golf tournament, a four person scramble and had been practicing quite a bit…I felt pretty confident.  I felt great about my skill level that is until I had my picture taken on tournament day.

Glancing at it now I can recall how confident I felt, how proud I was of my seemingly incredible skill level.  Then I looked at the picture.   I didn’t look like Phil Mickleson, or Ernie Ells or any other professional golfer for that matter; in fact what I saw troubled me.  The picture was of me in full swing, my 1 Wood club in hand and I had just taken a swing at the tee.  The thing that troubled me was my form.  I had just assumed I had mastered the golf swing, but the photograph before me didn’t lie.  My form was terrible and evident to all who saw that picture.  In this infamous photograph the golf club that I was holding was stuck in a half swinging arc that represented how I traditionally struck the ball…and it was not pretty.  Long story short, my follow-through looked dreadful.   In golf the definition of follow-through is:  to complete (a stroke or shot) by continuing the movement to the end of its arc, to pursue or aim to it’s conclusion.  What I saw that day in the photograph was a half-follow-through…the end of the arc within my swing was supposed to be behind my head, but my swing ended at my shoulders with the golf club pointed skyward.  To a non-golfer perhaps this image doesn’t mean much, but to anyone who plays golf, or attempts it like I do, you will know that without a good follow-through swing the golf ball will inevitably slice left or right, the power behind a shot will be limited and finally repetitive motion and form like this could cause physical harm within the back of the would be golfer.

There is a very real spiritual application to this important golfing principle.  The Spiritual Follow-through of a Christian is his or her spiritual formation…their learned form within the context of salvation, scriptural understanding and basic theology.  Without correct follow-through in the spiritual realm of things, one can learn dangerous and often times harming half-truths.  The golf club, so to speak, will only arc skyward and within this ill-form, the follow-through could lead to slicing holiness, biblical understand, moral living way out into some very dangerous hazards on the course of life.   God’s Word should be treated with respect and reverence.  Biblical understanding of life principles is a shared task between the spiritually mature and those still young in their faith.  Application of holy living should be practiced and displayed within the context of the Christian community.  After all, if we are Christ-followers, we are to be set apart for His holy purpose and his example to the world of God’s redemptive and restorative love.  When we venture out into the world untrained and ill prepared to declare this good news to the masses we potentially short change and misrepresent God’s message to those who need it most.  In essence our follow-through could be lacking depth and godly form.  Don’t misunderstand me, His Holy Spirit can and will equip us for His holy purpose, but we also have work to do!    2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…

How do we correct bad form within our spiritual follow-through?  We study scripture; we ask difficult questions, we surround ourselves with brothers and sisters in Christ who are spiritually grounded in the Word of God and will challenge us to deepen our faith and hold us accountable when we are lacking.  How is your spiritual follow-through at this moment in your life?  Are you lacking?  Does your follow-through need work?  If it does, and I’m sure we all need a little work in this area of our spiritual walk…let’s get serious about improving our swing!  Let’s get serious about deepening our faith in Christ.  When we improve our follow-through, His Word can and will become a greater, more equipped source of hope and light to those we minister to in this world.  So take your follow-through to the next level…and keep swinging!

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